10 Bollywood Stars Who Struggled Hard to Make it Big in India

Rajinikanth and Amitabh Bachchan © Bollywood Hungama / Wikimedia Commons
Rajinikanth and Amitabh Bachchan © Bollywood Hungama / Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Poonam Binayak
India Writer25 June 2017

Lavish and glamorous, that’s how many of us see the life of Bollywood stars, but seldom do we realize that a lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into reaching those heady heights of coveted fame. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth; many come from humble backgrounds with dreams to make it big. Here we bring you the Bollywood stars who struggled hard for success in the Indian film industry.

Amitabh Bachchan

Today, he holds a Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, President of India “Medallion of Honour”, Honorary Doctorates and several accolades in the film industry, but Amitabh Bachchan struggled to get to this great height, even spending a few nights on Marine Drive (Mumbai), being rejected by two radio stations and with around 12 flop films in a row. His dedication and determination got him through it and today, he is a legend, aptly known as, “Shahenshah of Bollywood”.

Amitabh Bachchan | © TeachAIDS / Flickr

Shahrukh Khan

Long before became “King of Bollywood”, Shahrukh Khan was just like us all, a common man. With a failed restaurant business in Delhi, to working as an usher at a concert in Delhi and earning peanuts, to sleeping in front of hotels in Mumbai, to being rejected by many filmmakers due to his bedraggled looks, the journey was tough. But as the famous dialogue of his movie (Chennai Express) goes “Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Common Man”. Shahrukh Khan struggled, but he never gave up on his dreams of making it big in Bollywood, and there he is today, having won the hearts of millions of people.

Shahrukh Khan | © Thore Siebrands (Shah Rukh Khan) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


It’s hard to imagine Rajinikanth as anything but the demigod and legend he is today – but once he was just an ordinary man who worked odd jobs as a carpenter, coolie, bus-conductor, among other jobs. His journey to stardom was full of roadblocks. Coming from nothing to becoming ‘God of Indian Cinema’, that’s Rajinikanth for you, the epitome of success. Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year and numerous awards are now in his kitty.

Dilip Kumar

He once earned his sustenance by selling fruits roadside and then by running a sandwich stall at an army club. During his early days, he didn’t even have a single penny to shuttle between home and the film studios. Crowned as the ‘Pioneer of Method Acting in India’ and bestowed with awards, like Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Nishan-e-Imtiaz (highest civilian honour by Government of Pakistan), Dilip Kumar’s life is the epitome of the journey from rags to riches.

Dilip Kumar | © Webside at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Late Dev Anand

We all know the “The Evergreen Actor”, Dev Anand, who gave Indian Cinema a new and unique style, and numerous timeless classics, like Guide, Kala Pani, Hare Krishna Hare Ram and Des Pardes, to name a few. His journey to stardom didn’t happen overnight; this legendary actor had his fair share of struggles. Before tasting the fruits of fame and glory, he worked as a clerk for a few years, followed by the Military Censor Officer, trying to scrape a living.

Dev Anand | © Bollywood Hungama / Wikimedia Commons


Crowned as the”He-Man of India” or “Action King”, this title didn’t came easy to Dharmendra. Before his breakthrough into the film industry, he worked as a plumber and there were times when he could not make enough money and ended up sleeping on an empty stomach. But with his perseverance, he made it into the film fraternity. He, today, has India’s third highest Civilian honour – Padma Bhushan, and several National Film Awards and Filmfare Awards.

Dharmendra | © www.filmitadka.in [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Akshay Kumar

His cinematic career made him the most bankable Bollywood Star and earned him a National Film Award, Padma Shri along with several other awards, but this “Khiladi of Bollywood” or “Indian Jackie Chan”, as they say, had suffered financial crises, worked as a waiter, chef, peon, salesman, and was even rejected by many producers and directors. But these circumstances didn’t stop him to fulfill his dreams of becoming an actor and, the rest, as they, is history!

Look #Akshaykumar

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Mithun Chakraborty

This list would have been incomplete without the mention of this “Disco Dancer of India”, Mithun Chakraborty. Who would have thought that a Naxalite would one day become a superstar not only in India, but in Russia too. Mithun Chajraborty’s journey to stardom had plenty of roadblocks, including hungry days. Today, he is regarded as one of the most iconic actors in India.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

It’s been a long road to fame and glory for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Making it in the Bollywood film industry wasn’t easy – he knew this from the start, but it didn’t stop him from chasing his dreams. He started out as a chemist, then watchman, junior artist and now, he is a well-known face in India. From a poor background to a rejected actor to a lead actor to National Film Award Winner, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s story is a truly rags to riches one!

Nawazuddin Siddiqui | © Bollywood Hungama / Wikimedia Commons

Boman Irani

He spent years working as a waiter, room service staff, assistant in his family bakery and photographer, before making it big in Indian film industry. He entered the film industry in his early 40s, and since, there has been no looking back. As a child he had a ‘learning and speech disability’. Can you believe it? A man who once had learning and speech disabilities, is now the most sought-after actor in Bollywood.

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